The United States has warned that Covid is on the verge of becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.
On Friday, US health officials pleaded with Covid vaccine skeptics to roll up their sleeves and get their shots, as the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths increased. “There is a clear message coming through: this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters. The agency reported more than 33,000 new cases on Thursday, bringing the seven-day average to 26,306, a 70% increase from the previous week.
The seven-day average of hospital admissions is approximately 2,790 per day, a 36% increase. After weeks of declines, the seven-day average of deaths rose to 211, a 26% increase. The outbreaks are concentrated in areas with low vaccination rates, and “unvaccinated Americans account for virtually all recent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths,” according to Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator. According to the covSpectrum tracker, the Delta variant is driving the new wave, accounting for more than 80% of new cases.
According to a recent study published in the journal Virological, Delta grows much faster inside the body than previous strains, and people who are infected shed much more of it in the air, increasing the likelihood that it will be transmitted. Vaccines, including those manufactured by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, remain highly effective against the variant, but the United States’ immunization campaign has slowed significantly in recent weeks. President Joe Biden set July 4 as a target date for 70% of adults to have received one or more doses, but as of July 15, the figure was still only 67.9%. At this rate, the goal will not be reached until the end of the month. Parts of the country that voted for former Republican President Donald Trump in the 2020 election had significantly lower vaccination rates than those that voted for Democrat Joe Biden, and are now at the epicenter of the surges. Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana are among the hotspots. However, health officials are optimistic that because 80 percent of the most vulnerable age group of over-65s is fully vaccinated, the increase in hospitalizations and deaths will be less dramatic than the increase in cases. This would follow the pattern seen in Israel and the United Kingdom, both of which are heavily vaccinated and have been hit by Delta waves.
According to Walensky, an expert panel convened by the CDC will investigate whether immune-compromised people whose bodies responded poorly to Covid vaccines may require a third dose next week.